Good Work Design: Involving Your Workers In Flammable Liquids Safety 

Originally published December 17, 2021 12:39:23 AM, updated January 20, 2022

Consulting with the people in your organisation is an essential requirement under Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation. It’s also an important principle of Good Work Design. In this blog, we’ll be applying Principle 8 to workplaces that carry flammable liquids. We’ll be discussing how you can successfully move your workplace consultation beyond appearance levels to include the full participation of your workforce on those vital health and safety matters. 

Principle 8: Good work design actively involves the people who do the work, including those in the supply chain and networks.  

Safe Work Australia 

Unpacking Good Work Design Principle 8 

For those of you who have been following our Good Work Design blog series, you’ll  know how these ten principles work together to form greater outcomes for businesses and their staff members.  

The principles of good work design explain how the design of work and work processes can help organisations achieve greater health and safety for their staff through the elimination of hazards. These principles can be applied to any type of workplace and can simultaneously help boost productivity and efficiency, while improving the wellness  of workers. 

Locking flammable cabinetPrinciple 8 explains the benefits of including your people in the process of good work design. 

Involving Staff In Good Work Design 

Good Work Design Principle 8 focuses on encouraging staff to be included in the process of good work design. When this is applied to flammable liquids safety, we can see that it recognises the importance of consulting with the workers who use, store and handle Class 3 Flammable Liquids. This collaborative effort is critical for businesses who are developing safe work procedures, purchasing chemical storage and decanting equipment, or designing chemical handling areas. 

The benefit of this collaboration is that workers are more likely to understand the procedures, realise their significance and thus create a safer and healthier environment for all. When involving staff with chemical risk assessments, and the development of safe work procedures, you’re reaching the people that these decisions affect the most — and gaining important insight into the reality of daily operations. Your staff will be able to better  understand how your organisation’s health and safety decisions impact their team, as well understanding how their actions can impact other people present in the workplace.  

Including Your Supply Chain In The Process 

However, it isn’t just your employees who contribute to the health and safety of your workplace.  

Principle 8 also recommends seeking guidance from different stakeholders along the supply chain including: 

  • chemical suppliers 
  • delivery drivers 
  • maintenance contractors 
  • chemical waste collection companies

By involving a wider range of workers, your business will be able to identify and action more ways in which you can improve the work design and processes of your organisation. In particular, when you’re carrying Class 3 Flammable Liquids, it’s the expertise of your supply chain that can help you raise the standards of safety in your business. You may not be aware of some specific hazards that these workers are experiencing, such as issues with the delivery process or problems with waste collection areas. By taking a comprehensive view of all staff who are associated with the Dangerous Goods at your site, you’ll be able to gain a firmer understanding of how to reduce hazards in all your work areas. 

Flammable Liquid Spilled 1By including a range of stakeholders in your workplace consultation, you will gain a better understanding of how you can eliminate hazards. 

But how should you implement Good Work Design Principle 8 in your own business? Read on to learn more about how you can successfully consult with your people. 

How Should You Consult With Staff On Good Work Design? 

So, what exactly does workplace consultation look like in practice?  

The process is much more than simply making an announcement at a health and safety committee meeting, as it involves managers, supervisors and workers at all levels of the organisation.  

Here are some of our suggestions for getting started: 

1. Risk Assessments 

A great starting point for workplace consultation is involving workers in risk assessments. We suggest having your staff attend safety audits, so they can play an active part of the hazard identification process. Eg, workers who decant chemicals and fuel on a regular basis can quickly outline some of the difficulties they encounter for a risk assessment (eg, spillage from overpouring, incompatible container sizes, loose fitting nozzles, poor lighting). 

Risk Assessment drumsInvolving staff in risk assessments is an ideal way to begin the workplace consultation process.

2. HSE Committees 

HSE Committee meetings are an opportunity for management and representatives from individual work areas to open up discussion on safety issues. Eg, a suggestion by management to increase weekly chemical deliveries from 2 to 3 deliveries per week may be questioned by logistics staff who don’t have enough forklifts and lifting aids to safely process any more deliveries. 

3. Project Teams 

Project teams plan and implement major purchases, site upgrades, renovations,  demolition and construction projects. Appointing worker representatives to a project team can foster cooperation as the project is being rolled out, but more importantly, draw on practical expertise to design out hazards. Eg, the HSE Manager sitting on a construction project team who are designing a new warehouse can advise on aggregate quantities of flammable liquids stores that cannot be exceeded. 

Training Staff and Contractors in Flammable Liquids SafetyProject teams can benefit from worker input when designing projects such as site upgrades.

4. Staff Meetings 

Staff meetings don’t have to be a one-sided affair where either management delivers a stern warning or celebrates an exceeded sales target. Staff meetings can also be effective collaborations when workers are encouraged to participate and have their say. Eg, at an open safety forum at the end of a staff meeting, outdoor staff complain that empty fuel drums are being repeatedly left outside on the ground (without bunding) or caps. These drums have chemical residue and are still flammable and potentially explosive. 

REMEMBER: Merely updating a group of workers AFTER you have purchased and installed a set of flammable liquids cabinets is NOT workplace consultation.  

How Do You Achieve Effective Workplace Consultation? 

Effective workplace consultation exists when workers are genuinely involved in decision making — and feel confident that their contributions are valued by the organisation.  

You can encourage workplace consultation in your business by ensuring that: 

  • Ease Of Reporting - There are mechanisms in place for workers to report safety issues — or when things are not working. Eg, the light in the flammable liquids store is not working, staff and contractors in the area know exactly how to report the fault. 
  • Issues Fixed Quickly - When things get reported (or flagged during an audit inspection), they get fixed promptly. Eg, a worker’s eye guard is dropped, and the eye pieces now have scratch marks, the eye guard is immediately replaced.  
  • Health and Safety Representatives - HSRs are given the time and resources they need to fully represent the safety issues in their work areas. Eg, HSR representatives from the chemical stores are given 2 weeks’ notice before a consultative meeting and are able to attend during paid work time. 
  • Clear Communication - Workers are advised of the outcome of consultation meetings and projects. Eg, workers at the chemical drum decanting station were interviewed when management was deciding whether to continue hand-pouring or purchase drum caddies. A follow-up meeting was held to announce the purchase of drum caddies and the fundamental reasons behind the decision.
IMPORTANT: For workplace consultation to be effective, workers must feel they can be fully honest about health and safety issues without fear or reprisal or repercussions from management and co-workers.

How Are You Involving Your People In Good Work Design? 

When it comes to improving flammable liquids safety in a workplace, we always recommend carrying out a risk assessment which involves your workers. Purchasing equipment, such as a Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets, is a process which can greatly improve the work design and processes of your organisation. Cabinets manufactured in full conformance of AS1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids meet all the principles of good work design. If you’d like to find out more about flammable liquids safety, we have an easy-to-understand guide that can help. Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors details how to select, install and maintain control measures, so your people can benefit from improved safety and efficiency. Grab your copy for free today. 

Essential Considerations when Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors download Free eBook

Like what you’re reading?  

Explore our entire series on flammable liquids and Good Work Design: 

Blog 1 – Applying The Principles Of Good Work Design To Flammable Liquids Handling and Storage 

Blog 2 – Good Work Design: Enhancing The Health and Wellbeing Of Staff Who Work With Flammable Liquids 

Blog 3 – How Good Work Design Can Improve Operational Costs, Productivity and Flammable Liquids Safety 

Blog 4 – Designing Out Risk and Hazards When Using Class 3 Flammable Liquids 

Blog 5 – Putting Good Work Design Into Practice On Your Class 3 Flammable Liquids 

Blog 6 – Applying Good Work Design Principles Across The Operational Lifecycle Of Flammable Liquids 

Blog 7 – Flammable Liquids Safety: The Role Of Leaders and Decision Makers 

Blog 9 – Good Work Design: The Systematic Approach To Flammable Liquids Risk Management 

Blog 10 Flammable Liquids Management: Learning From Experts, Evidence and Experience 

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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